I have many positive traits among which keeping my promises is paramount: like just half an hour ago I went into the corner shop solemnly promising myself I would buy nothing but half a kilo of super healthy peaches, and came out with a can of Guinness. (Which, of course, is good for you. So there, I almost did it.)
Now that I gave myself dubious press, I can move on to the part where I actually do keep a promise I made, and one week after our adventurous outing to Budafok and its environs, we have indeed paid a visit to another unexplored part of the Budapest galaxy, namely Népliget. I once threw a small tantrum of disbelief when reading about inhabitants of Istanbul who’ve never seen the Bosphorus, but frankly, what’s my excuse for not having been to Népliget? Going there we took the metro, but coming back we actually walked, with the added excitement of a detour into the infamous 8th district- so I wouldn’t necessarily say that the place is a stone throw’s away, but two would do the job.
The first impression of the park is slightly eerie, as if you’re facing a faded, or perhaps simply wilder version of something, with an added whiff of socialist decrepitude. Some alleys are haphazard and overgrown, there are large, almost boulevardish roads, empty of both people and cars, like streets in some dictatorship’s fever dream ghost capital. It might have been the weather as well, a hot but cloudy summer’s day intensively pondering a storm which never came, but the park was borderline deserted- bar a weird couple sipping cheap beer on a bench, two homeless people drying their clothes and one person walking a dog (which, by Budapest standards is technically a negative number), the first living beings we came across were a whopping six squirrels frolicking quite audaciously in spite of the two mad humanoids chasing them with cameras.
We also encountered a number of mind boggling memorials- the Polish soldier surrounded by flower beds was yet another wink to bygone times, joined by monuments dedicated to the gravestone makers and quarry men of Kőbánya- this latter piece of intel provided one of those epiphanies of the weak minded when I realized that of course the place must have been named Kőbánya because there were stone quarries there.
The accidental finding of a Fradi training facility provided further random flashbacks, this time to a book on terrace culture I’d read, by the charming name of ‘Shit Ground No Fans’. I do hope not to give offence to any Fradi fans reading this, the new stadium, looming large on the other side of the park, is actually quite modern, but for Pete’s sake, what’s the point in that when you lose in the first round of Champions League pre-qualifiers to the team whom Albania sent when their title holder got kicked out for match fixing. Also, please explain the bird. Please.
To add insult injury, the only facilities we found which could provide us with beer were two ramshackle kiosks at the entry point closest to the stadium (we unwisely chose to ignore them at this stage) and two filling stations at the other end. Also, the only beer which was actually beer, like by German purity law standards ( I know I am horrible about this and will not even attempt to deny it), was DAB. So that is how I ended up sipping a totally random beer on a tropical Sunday afternoon, chasing squirrels. Which, if not yet described as one of life’s essential pleasures, damn well should be. Thank you Népliget for being a simple green something two stone’s throws away from where I live and sorry for having shunned you for your sisters with better beers- sometimes quirky is just nicer than nice.
PS: We also accidentally wandered into Tisztviselőtelep, which, among other things hosts a ridiculously mis-shaped church and the hotel I stayed in the first time I laid eyes on the fair city of Budapest. About them, possibly, in an another exploratory chapter.